Florida’s beaches are some of the best in the United States. Two of Florida’s best beaches are located just a hop and a skip away from one another – Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach. So which is better: Clearwater or St. Pete?
Clearwater Beach has lifeguards on duty during the day and a few more amenities, making it just a little better than St. Pete Beach, but you’re going to have a great time at either place. Both of these fine beaches offer great sand, abundant sunshine, and the gorgeous waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
So are there sharks at Clearwater Beach? Can you walk on the beach at night? Is the water clear? How crowded are the beaches? The answers to these questions and more are in the following sections.
Clearwater vs. St. Pete Beach: Choosing the Best Beach
Choosing between Clearwater and St. Pete Beach is like choosing a favorite child. They both have a lot of great things to offer and their own distinctive personalities to boot. So to figure out which is the superior beach, let’s do a comparison.
Even if you’re a good swimmer, it’s nice to know that there are lifeguards nearby. Lifeguards offer water rescue and can be helpful in the event of other problems. In addition, they monitor the currents and water conditions, look for sharks, and keep a watchful eye on revelers at the beach.
Clearwater Beach has lifeguards on duty seven days a week, from 9:30 AM to 5 PM. So if you attend the beach outside of those hours, you’re on your own. On the other hand, St. Pete Beach does not have lifeguards at all.
Winner: Clearwater Beach
Going to the beach is fantastic, but it can be a struggle to find good parking, especially during the busy season. Is it easier to park on Clearwater Beach or St. Pete Beach? Based on the number of parking spaces alone, Clearwater Beach has more parking available than St. Pete Beach, although you may have to walk a little bit before you get to those beautiful white sands.
Can you find street parking near the beaches? Yes, but it fills up quickly and is often metered. You can also find some private parking lots, but many of them charge outrageous fees for parking, some as much as $30 an hour! Public parking lots often charge a fee, but never a fee that obscene.
Your best strategy to find good parking is to get to the beach early in the day – like early early, before 10:00 or so. Another winning strategy is to take a rideshare or a cab – then you don’t have to deal with it at all.
Winner: Clearwater Beach
Pro tip: If you’re visiting the area, consider staying at a hotel or B&B on the beach. That way, you have built-in parking and easy beach access.
In addition to the beautiful sands and balmy waters, what do these beaches have to offer? St. Pete Beach has three boardwalks that provide easy access to the sand, plus drinking fountains, outdoor showers (for rinsing off salt and sand, not for bathing), and public restrooms at the beach access points. There are also several fun restaurants and bars along Gulf Boulevard; if you don’t want to drive, many are within walking distance of the beach.
Clearwater Beach offers a little more. First, there’s Pier 60, a 1,080-foot-long pier good for fishing and strolling, which includes several excellent places to eat and hang out. There is also a playground for the kiddos, and much like St. Pete Beach, there are plenty of dining alternatives within walking distance of the beach. There are also lifeguards, which may be a factor depending on your comfort level with the ocean.
Winner: Clearwater Beach
One of the best methods to experience the beach is to stay at a beachfront resort, hotel, bed and breakfast, or rental home. Walking out of your room and right onto the sands is one of life’s great pleasures, and not having to deal with the aggravation of driving, parking, and unloading your beach gear adds a relaxing dimension to the experience.
The TradeWinds Resort at St. Pete Beach is a wonderful place to stay, and it offers guests nearly any kind of amenity you can imagine – plus, you’re literally on the beach. Just a few miles north, you can stay at the Sandpearl Resort Clearwater Beach to enjoy a similar experience.
Of course, there is also an assortment of smaller hotels and other rentals available all along the beachfront, many operated by renowned hospitality companies such as Wyndham and Hilton. Pricing between the two beaches is comparable; it definitely costs a few extra bucks to be on the beach, but it’s money well spent. You’ll be able to find a great place to stay on either beach.
Phenomenal Florida Fun Fact: Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach are only two of the beaches along Gulf Boulevard. If you head up Gulf Boulevard, you’ll pass by dozens of other great beaches, so even if you can’t find parking at your preferred beach, you’ll almost certainly be able to hit the sands somewhere.
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Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach are only about 18 miles away from one another. Both are situated on Florida’s fabulous Gulf Coast and tend to enjoy sunny and warm weather. In the spring months, you can expect temps in the high 70s to low 80s; the summer brings temps in the mid-80s to low 90s. There’s usually a pleasant breeze blowing off the ocean, and it is almost always sunny at the beach – the exception being if there’s a storm in town.
Both beaches get abundant sunshine. Clearwater averages about 240 sunny days a year, but nearby St. Pete boasts an astonishing 361 sunny days a year. Be sure to bring some good sunscreen and some shade when you head to the beach. Many beachgoers like to bring umbrellas or tents; be sure to pack anchors, so your shade shelter doesn’t blow away.
Winner: St. Pete’s sunny disposition gives it the leg up over Clearwater Beach in this category.
Are There Sharks at Clearwater Beach?
Clearwater Beach does have sharks. Shark species in the area include lemon sharks, bonnetheads, blacktips, tiger sharks, and hammerheads. However, shark attacks are extremely rare in general and especially on Florida’s west coast.
Sharks are usually wary of people, and since Clearwater Beach is extremely popular, sharks do not usually come up close to shore.
Can You Walk on Clearwater Beach at Night?
You can walk on Clearwater Beach at night: the beach is open 24 hours a day. A moonlight stroll down the beach can be an amazingly beautiful experience. However, we would advise you to bring bug spray, as many tiny flying insects come out at night and love to feast on whatever is around.
Also, be aware that if you encounter nesting birds, sea turtles, or other wildlife, you should leave them alone and avoid making contact with, harassing, shining lights on, or otherwise annoying the animals.
Is the Water at St. Pete Beach Clear?
The clarity of the water at St. Pete Beach varies depending on weather and other conditions. If it has been stormy, the water is likely going to have a lot of loose sediment and sand that has been kicked up by the action of the sea. If there are large waves, sediment and sand can make it a little murky in shallower waters.
However, if the weather has been nice and the sea is relatively calm, the water is usually quite clear. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see small fish swimming in the tides.
Does St. Pete Beach get Crowded?
St. Pete Beach is a very popular location, and as such, it can get very crowded. This popularity is especially true during spring break and during other busy times of the year.
If you want to avoid the throngs, you should go to the beach early. Watching the sunrise over the beach and then camping in your chair and enjoying the weather is a great way to pass a morning at St. Pete Beach.
Are There Sharks at St. Pete Beach?
Much like at Clearwater Beach, there are sharks at St. Pete Beach. Sharks love living in the Gulf of Mexico. However, they usually don’t get very close to shore, especially when there are a lot of people around. Shark attacks are very rare, so don’t let the fear of sharks prevent you from getting in the water at St. Pete Beach.
Clearwater Beach vs. St. Pete Beach: No Wrong Choice
Based on our comparison, you might think Clearwater Beach is far superior to St. Pete Beach. And while Clearwater Beach does have some certain amenities that make it nice, you shouldn’t underestimate St. Pete Beach!
The truth of the matter is that the entire strip of Gulf Coast between Clearwater and St. Pete Beach offers beachgoers great sand, beautiful water, and endless fun.
Whether you end up spending your day at St. Pete Beach, Clearwater Beach, or one of the dozens of beaches between them, your Florida beach day will be phenomenal, fun, and relaxing.